On a steamy afternoon in Boca Raton, Florida, in the days before air conditioning, Joseph Haspel went swimming in the ocean fully clothed. After emerging from the water, Haspel, a master tailor from New Orleans in town for a trade show, told onlookers not to worry. "This suit will be dry in 15 minutes and ready to wear again without cleaning or pressing," he said, returning the beachfront hotel, where seersucker, Haspel's revolutionary new fabric, was introduced. Milk & Sugar: The Complete Book of Seersucker, a new book by Memphis attorney Bill Haltom, opens with this story and traces the history of seersucker from its humble beginnings as a lightweight working-man's fabric to Hollywood and the halls of Congress.
"I've heard it called the Memphis summertime tuxedo," says Haltom, who co-founded the annual seersucker flash mob which takes place in the Peabody Hotel on the Friday before Labor Day. "It's just so comfortable," he gushes, explaining his favorite fabric's enduring post-air conditioning appeal. "If you're the chairperson of the board you can wear it to the annual meeting, or you can take the tie off and wear it to a backyard cookout."
Haltom thinks, under the right conditions, seersucker can even work miracles. "In Washington in the 1990s, liberal Democrat Dianne Feinstein and conservative Republican Trent Lott came up with Seersucker Thursdays in the United States Senate, which they discontinued a few years ago. In the book I quote Senator Lott: 'We balanced the federal budget during the time of Seersucker Thursdays. I don't think that's a coincidence.'"
Burke's Book Store is hosting Milk & Sugar's official release Saturday, March 26th at 2 p.m. Although it may be a few hours before Easter and months before Labor Day, attendees are encouraged walk on the wild side and wear their favorite seersucker outfits anyway.